Saturday, July 29, 2017

An early take on pura vida

Pura vida has mostly been a call of pride and mutual agreement that things are pretty alright. Pura vida is the national expression of Costa Rica. It is a way of life. It is how one is doing when you ask, ¿Como esta (how are you)? It is an expression of agreement that life is pretty great here.

Take for instance after having worked with a real estate broker here for a long while to find a long term rental with a tight profile. He very vigorously identified properties fitting a our specifications, but they didn't quite suit us save one that was great, but it disappeared within a blink; friends of the owners would be taking the place before us. We canvased the area for all brokers working within this town of 1,500 residents, and we found exactly what we were looking for through another party, and it was tough for me to write the message explaining the situation. I felt bad to deliver it in an email, but I had an opportunity to connect with him in person shortly thereafter. Both his response to the email and seeing him in person the affect was the same. Pura Vida. He was glad our family has been able to find exactly the place we needed for the time we are here in Sámara. What a choice notion to affirm life exclaiming, "pura vida."

Unrelated to the apartment, during my recent mourning period a new friend explained that Costa Rica is a place where cell phones come to die. My language instructor affirmed this after a discussion in class this past week. So, a couple weeks I went out near shore fishing. Everything was spectacular about the entire trip from early rise right up until the final minute of the trip back to shore. We were successful out at sea bringing home some yellow fin tuna, and we split up the catch among the three different parties. When at nearly the last moment the boat to shore skiff came sliding in ashore, and the boat skids up on the rocks turning sideways. Everyone else successfully gets out of the skiff, and I put my leg over the side of the boat at which point it gets shoved broadside by a wave, and I was tossed face first into the shore. My hand and knee took a mild skinning and beating. Worse still my cell phone was in the cargo pocket of my bathing suit. Newly dunked I immediately sprang into action tossing the phone. My new buddy graciously and selflessly began hooving water off the device and wiping it down.

Time goes by and alas the phone is dead. Like dead dead. Like there's a single red light blink if you attempt to power up the device. I'm fairly sure I'm singlehandedly responsible for assassinating my phone with an electric surge before it was fully dry and ready for such an encounter. Well, much time gone by and energy spent a new phone will make it to me with about a month's long gap in between.

Back up a week or two before the phone's death, and I was shocked to find myself here and spending as much time as I did on the couch making sure I traversed every corner of my old internet stomping grounds. And, as it turns out that is a lot of information. My phone was also quite handy for walking around with as it has the local data plan making it easy to stay in touch for our family and explore new towns, etc. However, did we HAVE to have this up to the minute access? No. Pura vida. Could the death of my phone be cause for exclaiming, "pura vida"? Yes, in fact it is.

Without constantly reaching for my phone I have been reaching for my book. I finished a great one, Neal Stephenson's The Diamond Age or a Young Lady's Illustrated Primer. And, then I moved onto the next book in my pile.

Not to be outdone with the downside of pura vida I had to pause writing this story at home, which I'm doing because the internet has been down for four days (pura vida). I had to pause because Willa killed the iPad. She wanted to give me a hug while watching her show, and with the cord sufficiently wrapped around her waist she dragged the device off the coffee table and the screen cracked into a million shards making the iPad dangerously unusable. Pura vida.

Before we left Marla and I discussed what this year would be for us, what we wanted for Willa and overall how would this time would change our family. Well, the resiliency we discussed and agreed would be very beneficial for all of us is being served up daily. Things are different here in a great way, and we are beginning to embrace all the amazingness and all the challenges that pura vida has to offer.

Thursday, July 06, 2017

When it feels right

Back in January/February Marla and I sat and had lengthy deliberative discussions about what was next for us. We had settled on Toronto as a great place for our family to live. That would be at the start time for Willa heading into primary school, Fall 2018, and there was the matter of what should we do now, right now? What would be best for our family.

Sabbatical made a lot of sense to us as we're waiting for my permanent residency paperwork, which has a natural course of action. Costa Rica appealed to us for many reasons. We had previously travelled here and loved the whole experience. Ticos are wonderful, kind and easy going people; they embody their Pura Vida ethos. As two relatively wound up people that would do us good. Then there's the 77-87º F weather -- with a shower in the afternoon half the year -- every day. Add to that a tranquilo beach town with good beginner surfing, yoga on the beach and a great bi-lingual pre-school. It all was too hard to drown out the chorus of resounding "yes" or "claro que sí".

Fast forward through lots of planning, a little bit of preparatory shopping, and a lot of good-byes, a taxi, a flight, and another taxi, and we arrived last Wednesday. Key to comfort here are cross breezes through the house, and as such we had the front door open wide with the screen door offering fresh air. Shortly after dark a neighborhood cat sidled up to the screen door to see who had come into town. Willa being quite tired and road weary launches into sympathetic pleas of "But where is he gonna sleep?" & "He's so lonely." She repeated these alternating inquiries and pleas in the sweetest and most innocent way that only a four year old girl can.

I suspect the cat understood Willa because over the following few days we received multiple presents. Walking out the front door Marla shrieked. She had squished the first present not having noticed the cat had left us a dead something; we couldn't identify it after nearly all of Marla's foot had descended; although, I did see a tail and some guts still on the mat, and I had to scrape the bulk off the underside of her foot with a paper towel. We all get clean, I wash the welcome mat, and a day later we come back from an outing to see this lizard curled up in the mat. Dad is definitely getting the unceremonious responsibility of cat gift disposal. You know you're not in Brooklyn when...

We are still settling in, and we were keeping a close eye on Willa's reaction to our new world. It has been a flurry of new, different, and exciting. It has all been the adventure we anticipated, and it all feels right so far. Willa's school is on the same two week break as the rest of the nation, and it's giving us plenty of time to figure things out together.

Saturday, July 01, 2017

My first taste of the ocean

Over the past many months I have been settling up our affairs in New York. We made the decision to pack up and head to Costa Rica in February, and this past Wednesday we arrived. There were lots of ins and outs to the whole transition. We had a long arc of goodbyes to our family and friends and to our city of 20 years.

Most everything went off without a hitch, but of course I can be silly sometimes. I had to have one more urgent care visit before leaving. After having settled up in Brooklyn we headed to Scarsdale, NY to spend a week with family. We went to the local pool, and not 15 minutes in I attempted a few breast strokes with my eyes closed -- my new goggles were arriving the next day. Several strokes in I veered off course a bit, and I banged my head into a ladder. Reportedly, eight staples at urgent care sealed the cut, and worse it donned on me that I couldn't jump in the ocean immediately upon arriving in Costa Rica. Irritatingly, I continue to have my fair share of accidents, but I got my feet in on the first day nevertheless. Marla, importantly, took that first day Pacific plunge and came back glowing. We have made a great decision for our family. Willa is a whole other matter, and we're still inching her into the water; on Wednesday she would have none of it.

Needless to say there was a bunch of conversation about my staples before departing. Should they come out early before I leave? Would I be able to get them out in a small town? Sámara only has about 4,000 residents. Answer turns out to be yes, there's a clinic run by Dr. Freddy Soto, and he indeed has a staple remover. Cool, we're good to go staples and all. They didn't set off the metal detector at JFK, but I had the visit notes handy just in case.

Yesterday was to be staple removal day, and I couldn't wait. First though we joined Willa's new school, Sámara Pacific School, on their beach day. The trip celebrated the school year half way point. Costa Rica's school calendar runs year round with about 210 days in session. This was a great opportunity for Willa to begin her new school introduction, meeting the other students and playing at the beach. Of course the ocean was looming, and not even the enticement of a fellow girl who went dashing into ankle deep water was enough to get Willa there. She did stick her toes in, which was a marked improvement over the two prior days.

At the beach picnic Marla and I were introducing ourselves and meeting lots of parents. Many have been here for a while, some were here only weeks before us, and some were leaving the following day. As it happens, Brian and his family were departing the next day after a three and a half year stay. Brian had lots of great suggestions for settling in, turns out they had two bikes to sell, and to boot he's an ER doctor with a pair of staple removers back at his house. After the beach party we went back to their house where he deftly removed my staples, and moments later we bought they bikes. Nice how that turned out.

During the past week I had fretted quite a bit about the staple removal, and I had discussed at the urgent care getting a staple remover to bring with me, I had seen my internist before leaving and discussed it with her. Marla and I and many family members had all discussed it extensively. I had contemplated how the tools would need to be sterile, and what would I do if they weren't; would I say something? In the end I sat at new acquaintance's poolside table. He pulled a pair of staple removers from a bag with lots of other tools, and he proceeded to pull out seven staples. The urgent care doctor said there were eight, so Dr. Brian and two onlookers all combed through my head with beach hands and scanned for the never applied eighth staple. This is not how I imagined the scene was going to go down.

After all that I was walking the small lane between our house and the beach, and I saw an email from a friend. There was change back in New York, which related to everything that set our family's adventure in motion, and it brought a huge smile to my face. With that I dropped off Willa's beach toys, which I had been retrieving, took off my shirt, pitched my flip flops and walked into the ocean.